3D printing and solar radiation to eliminate wastewater contaminants

UPM researchers seek alternative treatments that allow efficient degradation of organic pollutants in wastewater 

Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Madrid have developed a new technique for the elimination of persistent pollutants from wastewater. The system uses floating photocatalysts printed in 3D and solar radiation.

A team of researchers from the School of Engineering and Industrial Design (ETSIDI) of the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) has successfully tested a treatment for the degradation of contaminants of emerging concern in wastewater. For this they have used floating photocatalysts and solar radiation as the only reagent, a very economical, efficient process, easy to implement and compatible with the environment.

Organic pollutants, specifically contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), have a great environmental impact. Among them, there are some pharmaceutical products that, although they are in low concentration in the environment, can cause significant damage to flora and fauna and, therefore, to human health. Therefore, it is necessary to search for alternative treatments that allow an efficient degradation of these pollutants in water and wastewater.

The UPM team has been working for years on a line of research focused on the treatment of wastewater through various advanced oxidation processes , based on the generation of hydroxyl radicals as oxidizing agents of contaminating organic matter. Within this trajectory, several members of the group have carried out a project whose objective has been the study of the efficient degradation of the CECs.

Contaminates of high persistence

As María José Martín de Vidales, a researcher who has participated in the work, points out, "this type of pollutant has a high persistence in wastewater, since it can not be completely eliminated by conventional water treatments, and its presence in the medium aquatic, even in low concentrations, can generate health problems of various kinds (problems in the hormonal and endocrine systems, various types of cancer, bacterial resistance to antibiotics, etc.). "

In this context, advanced oxidation processes and, specifically, photocatalysis with titanium dioxide (TiO 2 ) are considered an option with positive results for an efficient treatment.

"One of the purposes of this project has been to seek a larger active surface of catalyst by extrusion and its subsequent 3D printing, counting on an adequate dispersion of TiO 2 in a support of lower density than water, thus obtaining a floating photocatalyst accessible to UV radiation and high activity in the treatment of wastewater contaminated with CECs "explains the researcher. In addition, "the floating characteristic of the catalyst can increase the efficiency of the process if the contaminant is found mainly on the surface of the water" concludes María José Martín de Vidales.

The photocatalysts obtained showed a higher activity compared to a flat geometry, used as a reference point. Therefore, this study opens the doors to the on-site treatment of CECs, using floating photocatalysts and solar radiation as the sole reagent, a very economical, efficient, easily implemented and environmentally compatible process.


3D Printed Floating Photocatalysts for Wastewater Treatment
 Martín de Vidales, MJ; Nieto-Márquez, A .; Morcuende, D .; Atanes, D .; Blaya, F .; Soriano, E .; Fernández-Martínez, F., 
Catalysis Today 328, 2019, 157-163.

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